Living Well with HIV

COVID-19 and people living with HIV

Burnett Foundation Aotearoa is monitoring the latest understandings and medical advice on how COVID-19 might affect people living with HIV – read more here.

Today’s treatments for HIV are so effective that most people who are diagnosed with HIV are healthy and have a normal life expectancy.

However, HIV does mean change and there will be a few things you will need to adapt to following a diagnoses of HIV. Here are some important things to think about.

It’s your choice who you tell about you HIV status. You should never feel pressured to into disclosing your status. It is useful to consider peoples’ reactions before telling them.

Looking after your mental well-being

It’s normal to have ups and downs. If you are feeling down or more anxious than usual, its a good idea to seek some support.

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself – everyone struggles with their mood sometimes.
  • Do something to distract you from negative thinking if that is what’s going on – gardening, cleaning,  shooting hoops, cooking.
  • Do your best to get into regular sleep patterns – this helps to ground you and manage anxiety.
  • Cut down on alcohol and recreational drugs – fun at the time, but can play havoc with your body chemistry and moods.
  • Nurture supportive relationships with  friends, family, support groups and other people living with HIV.

Staying physically healthy

Here are a few tips on how to stay physically healthy when you are living with HIV.

  • Take your medication everyday as prescribed.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor and follow their advice.
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet, and if need be, seek advice from a nutritionist about the best food for you.
  • Exercise and keep fit.
  • Ask for support from friends, family and others living with HIV.

Relationships and sex

Living with HIV doesn’t mean giving up sex – quite the opposite. If you are having sex with another person who has HIV you need to think about other STIs. Learn more about STIs here.

If you are having sex with someone who is not HIV positive then you have a number of options to prevent passing HIV onto them:

  • Condoms – very easy to get and an effective barrier against HIV and other STIs
  • UVL  or Undetectable viral load – when a person is undetectable they are unable to pass on HIV through sex. This means the amount of HIV in their blood is so low that it can’t be detected by a standard test for HIV
  • PrEP or Pre exposure prophylaxis – is a daily pill taken by an HIV negative person.  Studies have shown PrEP prevents onward transmission of HIV with up to 99% efficacy

HIV and the law

This site doesn’t give legal advice, but we thought we’d let you know that there is case law in New Zealand where people have been prosecuted for not disclosing their HIV status when they’ve had sex without a condom. While the case law will likely change, for now, condoms remain a very good idea.

It’s also good to know that you have the right to not be discriminated against because of your HIV status, sexuality, gender, age or physical disability. Access more information about how you are protected by the Human Rights Act here.